Diving deep and surfacing Georgia O’Keeffe.

Making your unknown, known is the important thing-and keeping the unknown always beyond you, catching, crystalising your simpler, clearer vision of life, only to see it stale compared to what you vaguely feel ahead

Georgia O’ Keeffe is the archetypal Scorpio. Sun, Moon, Mercury, Ascendant, Jupiter and the Part of Fortune all crowded around her Ascendant and opposite a painterly Neptune in Taurus and Venus in Libra. She took nature (Taurus, Kore) and transformed it into something deeper, darker and more confronting.

I wish I could show you her paintings but they are all still in copyright….but they are listed in bold type should you wish to look online.

Georgia’s 60 year career reflected the places which marked her life: Texas, New York, Lake George and New Mexico. She brought flowers, shells, rocks and animal bones back from her walks, which became the subject of here paintings. She looked closely at little things which make up our world. Georgia had a need to walk from an early age, she saw walking as a conscious cultural act (after Thoreau).

Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887 on a farm in Wisconsin. Georgia was passionate about art. Between 1905 and 1906, she studied at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. Between 1907 and 1908, she continued her training at the Art Students League of New York, her teacher was William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), one of the greatest impressionist painters of the country.

Her first prize-winning painting was ‘Dead Rabbit with Copper pot’ 1908 (very Scorpionic). The prize was an art summer school in Lake George, New York. That same year her mother was fell ill with tuberculosis and father went bankrupt. Such sudden reversals of fate are often seen in the lives of Scorpios. That year, Saturn was opposite her Venus at 7’Aries, Jupiter was conjunct Saturn at 7′ Leo and her progressed Mercury was conjunct her Sun. Georgia found her voice (Mercury) and her own, internal authority (Saturn) to fulfil her life’s work (Sun). Unable to continue studying, Georgia took a job as a commercial artist as she rejected the traditional painting she had been taught.

                    ‘I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.’

1915 was decisive, it was the year before her Saturn return. This can be when life begins to break down, only to reassemble later. Pluto and Saturn were conjunct her Chiron (1-4′ Cancer), and her progressed Moon was conjunct Mercury (again, finding her voice) and facing her fear (Saturn, Chiron) and reinventing herself (Pluto).

                          ‘To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.’

Georgia took long walks alone and began a series of black and white drawings. It was a time of freedom and shedding the past.

It was one of the best times in my life. There was no one around, no one was interested…I was alone and singularly free, working into my own unknown, no one to satisfy but myself.’

On January 1st 1916 Anna Pollitzer, a former classmate, took Georgia’s drawings to Stieglitz owner of the 291 gallery in New York. He said they were,

the purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while“,

The Moon that day passed over all her Scorpio planets, her persona (Ascendant) her emotional nature (Moon) and herself (Sun), her voice (Mercury) luck and help (Jupiter and part of Fortune). It appears this move was planned, for an astrologer it would certainly be a very auspicious day. Later she said in a letter to Ana (1916)

‘I would rather have something hang in 291 than any place in New York’

Stieglitz included her drawings during an exhibition in Spring 1916. Georgia, cashed in all her savings to pay her train fare from Canyon, Texas. She insisted the bank manager opened the bank to withdraw her $200 She arrived unannounced at the exhibition. Stieglitz became her patron and lover which allowed her to paint full time. There are beautiful photographs he has taken of her which can be found online (also in copyright).

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me.’

Her first solo exhibition with Stieglitz, April 3rd-May 14th 1917, was a great success. It was the month of her Jupiter half return (16′ Taurus), so Jupiter was transiting her descendant, again showing powerful, influential (Jupiter) and wealthy (Taurus) friends.

‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.

Her first flower paintings were water colours on canna lilies (1919).Georgia was aware of the stereotype of ‘woman painting flowers’ and so she painted them in a radical way (Uranus in Libra) as a reaction the to macho, cubism and futurism of the male painters in New York.

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower – the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower – lean forward to smell it – maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking – or give it to someone to please them. Still – in a way – nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t got time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time… So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it…

Georgia’s circle in New York discussed Freud’s and other works on sex and psychology, including Havelock Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex, which claimed that art is inspired and driven by sexual energy. Stieglitz argued that Georgia’s flowers are metaphorical studies of the vulva. O’Keeffe demurred,

Well – I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.’

Feminists of the second wave in 1970s saw her work as empowering women. The paintings were seen as allegories of the female body, done by a woman who defined the female body on her own terms, and not for the male gaze.

‘I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.

In the notes to her solo exhibition Jan 20-Feb 10 1923, Georgia talked about her journey as a woman artist.

One day seven years ago I found myself saying to myself – I can’t live where I want to – I can’t go where I want to go – I can’t do what I want to – I can’t even say what I want to… I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.’

Georgia began painting a series of paintings of skyscrapers, a new phenomenon in 1925. They fascinated her. She was told by the male painters in her set that it was impossible to paint them, as a Scorpio nothing more was needed to galvanise her. Her 1925 painting, New York Street with Moon was the first work in the series. The towers loom above the viewer, there are no people, the Moon frames the buildings rather than the other way round, the lamplight and the halo appear to reflect the Moon. The style is reflective of Japanese art (Ukiyo-e woodblock prints).

Black Iris III (1926) is one of her most famous paintings. The heart of the flower is reproduced on a massive scale. It evokes the vagina with soft petals revealing a deep, soft, interior. It is both intimate and erotic, full of sensual and mystical power. The size of the painting and its subject matter caused a stir in the art world, its soft, gorgeous colours epitomised the woman who was both on visible and secret.

There’s something about black. You feel hidden away in it

Georgia lived with Stieglitz for 11 years, he began an affair with a younger artist which precipitated the first of several breakdowns in 1928. Uranus was opposing her Venus (ruler of her 7th house of partnerships) and that year, Jupiter was conjunct Lilith (female rage) at 21′ Aries and then opposing all her Scorpio planets and conjunct her Descendant. Few relationships could survive such an onslaught, without major changes.

Georgia left Stieglitz in May 1929, (age 42), suffocated by life in NY and Lake George with the family. She went to live in New Mexico, she needed the wide open spaces of the desert to feel, as she was creatively exhausted and needed solitude and calm to immerse herself in her art. It was a heartbreaking wrench, she wrote to Stieglitz on the train,

‘I came to the train wondering why on earth I ever had such an idea to leave anyone as beautiful as you-But even through my tears I know I had to go.

Uranus was at 7′ Aries opposing her Venus (ruler of her 7th), Mercury Jupiter were opposite her Jupiter at 19′ Taurus, showing she needed to split (Uranus) to find her voice (Mercury) and move far away (Jupiter).

Georgia was terrified of going out into the desert alone, she wrote she was afraid she would

‘fall into something from which there is no return- no road back’

This is such Scorpionic symbolism. The terror of the darkness and the compulsion to immerse oneself in it. Georgia adored living in New Mexico, the climate was in complete contrast to the lush greenery of New England, which suffocated her.

   I even get a kind of ecstasy from the vast space-feeling like death-that is close kin to what the male can give me Still I have always enjoyed it most alone no one ever seems to equal the country as I feel it (Nov 1932)

Afterwards Georgia spent 3-6 months each year in the desert, like Persephone, she explored the underworld, before returning to the light.

I am divided between my man and a life with him and something of the outdoors…that is in my blood.’ 1932.

Despite her fear of solitude and the emptiness of the desert, Georgia bought a car and converted it to a studio on wheels often camping in barren places without shade or water and painting on site. Scorpio feels the fear and works through it, not to heal, but to feel alive.

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

Jimson Weed 1932 was one of Keeffe’s magnificent flower paintings. it shows four large Jimson weed petals in brilliant white. Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium) is a poison and hallucinogen. It grows wild in the desert, Georgia cultivated it in her garden. Datura flowers as the sun sets, evoking the darkness and ‘the coolness and sweetness of the evening’. Datura is used for spiritual journeying, but also has been used in suicide and murder. It feels like a suitable signature plant for someone with so much Scorpio in her chart, dicing with death, weaving beauty from deadly poisons. Don Juan the Yaqui shaman called it Yerba del Diabolo, he says she (it is a female shamanic plant),

 ‘…is as powerful as the best of allies, but there is something I personally don’t like about her. She distorts men. She gives them a taste of power too soon without fortifying their hearts and makes them domineering and unpredictable. She makes them weak in the middle of their great power.’

Georgia also had a series of paintings of skulls and bones including Ram’s Head 1935. Her skull paintings evoke the other side of the fertile but ephemeral flower, death as part of the cycle of life. The desert was a graveyard of bleached bones.

The bones seem to cut sharply to the centre of something that is keenly alive on the desert even though it is vast and empty and untouchable – and knows no kindness with all its beauty.

 Georgia moved to New Mexico permanently in 1940. One of her favourite places to paint, she named Black Place and described it as, an untouched lonely feeling place. One painting, Black Place 1949 showed the landscape full of soft folds, like cloth, with a harsh, eerie light. Her assistant, Maria Chabot called it the ‘very heart of darkness’ For Georgia the desert was,

Such a beautiful, untouched lonely feeling place, such a fine part of what I call the Faraway.’

Georgia explored the dark places in her internal and external worlds. She broke boundaries and taboos, faced her fear and always lived on her own terms as a true Scorpio warrior.

I’m glad I want everything in the world – good and bad – bitter and sweet – I want it all.’

Newsflash

Tomorrow (10am GMT) I will be talking and then leading a brief meditation on Mars Goddesses booking

I will be teaching a seminar on Goddess Astrology, Thursday 24th of November 7-9pm booking here


My new book can be bought here

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